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Background Information for Teachers

In the 1950s, Philadelphia was the country's 4th largest metropolitan city and a break-out market for performers and their records. By the end of the decade it was the capital of teenage music, and exposure on American Bandstand - which debuted nationally out of Philadelphia in 1957 - was essential to the success of singers. The show became the music industry's most valuable sales aid, providing 90 minutes in which its product and artists were promoted to an audience estimated at 20 million.

In addition to its impact on the music industry, American Bandstand proved a pop-cultural vehicle for racial integration. It was different from other American television programs. At a time when television still depicted blacks in stereotypical roles or none at all, American Bandstand did not hesitate to televise blacks and whites together on the dance floor.

Host Dick Clark was also influential in utilizing the show to fight the racism that was common during the fifties. In playing Rhythm and Blues (R and B) records by the original artists on his show, Clark helped stop the longstanding practice whereby records by black artists were performed in sanitized versions by white performers. Further, in "Sparking A Rock ‘N’ Roll Revolution: An Interview With Dick Clark," Clark praises the decision he and the show's producer made to include black dancers on the show. He recalls, "it just happened right there on a television screen in front of millions of people. That was a giant step forward."

Below are some facts about American Bandstand to aid in your facilitation of the lesson:

- Premiered in Philadelphia in 1952
- Dick Clark became its host in 1956
- Debuted nationally in 1957
- Included 150 guests (mostly Philadelphia teenagers)
- 90-minute dance-a-thon that showed the latest dances and fashions
- 5-day-a-week feature on ABC, and teens rushed home from school to watch
- Invited the audience to rate records for "danceability" while live singers lip-synched popular tunes
- A single appearance by a music artist could lead to next-day sales of 20,000-40,000 records
- Relocated to Los Angeles in 1964
- Ended in 1989

For additional reading background information on this lesson topic consider the following sources:

Further Reading

. Eyes On The Prize.January 10, 1999.

PBS. Box set: 7 VHS tapes, 6 hours. Students should explore major civil rights events prior to this lesson. The teacher might consider showing parts of this PBS series to compliment unit material. The documentary is a history of the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Eye-witness accounts and archival footage recall Emmett Till's murder, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the March on Washington among others.

Brash, Sarah and Loretta Britten. Rock + Roll Generation: Teen Life in the 1950s.. Alexandria: Time-Life Books, 1998.

This Time-Life book provides an enjoyable glimpse into the 1950s teen lifestyle and includes captivating photographs.

Brown, Ashely,, ed.. The Marshall Cavendish Illustrated History of Popular Music.. New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1989.

This is a publication of comprehensive focus on artists who defined the early rock and roll era.

Kashatus III, William C. "Sparking A Rock ā€˜Nā€™ Roll Revolution; An Interview With Dick Clark." Pennsylvania Heritage 24:3 (Summer, 1998).

This article, found in the quarterly-published Pennsylvania Heritage, yields a unique exposure of Clark's reflections on his career, Philadelphia's role in integration, and the legacy of American Bandstand.

Levy, Peter B. The Civil Rights Movement.. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Levy, an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Political Science at York College of Pennsylvania and a prolific author, delivers an excellent research tool that covers the political and human side to the Civil Rights Movement.

Miller, Douglas T and Marion Nowak. The Fifties: The Way We Really Were. Garden City: Doubleday & Company, Inc.,, 1975.

Authors expose the myth of 1950s nostalgia in this lengthy work.

Pendergast, Tom and Sara Pendergast, ed.. St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000.

The reader will find an alphabetical listing of biographies for popular culture personalities, events, and trends

Reed, Linda. "The Brown decision: its long anticipation and lasting influence." Journal of Southern History 70:2 (5/2004): 337.

This excellent article includes in-depth details on the Brown case and fitting commentary on American Bandstand's impact on 1950s race relations.

Robertson, Campbell. "Say What You Want, The Man Can Still Dance." The New York Times (7/8/2004): B2 col 3.

This article reveals Chubby Checker's reflections on his impact in the rock and roll industry; interesting opinions are also presented regarding his legacy.

Young, William H. and Nancy K. Young. American Popular Culture Through History: The 1950s.. Westport: Greenwood Press,

This book includes both fun and serious influences on popular culture in the 1950s.

Web Sites

Lyric Style

This website provides quick alphabetical research of your favorite songs or artists. The site also contains a standard keyword search feature and links to other lyric websites.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

The site provides a visual, interactive timeline of rock and pop music history. Inductees as well as museum exhibitions and programs are also included.

The History of Rock ā€˜nā€™ Roll

This website contains numerous links to topics that explore the roots of rock and roll with emphasis on African-American influences and "The Golden Decade 1954-1963."

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